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Rocio de la Cuadra

Cultural heritage management through the lens of cultural identity: The case of Spain

       Culture is at the core of current international discussions of identity, social cohesion, and sustainable development. Cultural contents and artistic expressions are considered vectors of identity, values, and meaning. In the context of UNESCO’s Universal declaration on Cultural Diversity of 2001, and the ongoing debate about the Convention on Cultural Diversity 2005, cultural diversity represents the common heritage of humanity.  Moreover, the aim of the Convention is to guarantee that every culture preserve its identity and dignity.  Cultural heritage represents the touchstone of societies’ collective cultural memory and an outstanding testimony of cross-cultural exchange. Therefore it is the foundation upon which communities continue to shape identities to this day and the inspiration for dialogue among cultures. 

This study is an examination of the politics of the management and presentation of cultural heritage in Spain through the lens of cultural identity.  Applying the general concept of cultural diversity to the case of Spain, I will examine the promotion and management of the Spanish cultural heritage taking into account the particular conditions that result from the set of tensions among the European, national and local politics and policies.  Due to the ‘Statute of Autonomies’ and the decentralization of competences, the management and funding of Spanish cultural heritage depends almost entirely on the nineteen Autonomous Communities. 

Recognizing the complexity of the identity politics in Spain in the context of nationalism, considering the high level of linguistic and national heterogeneity, it is widely acknowledged that this scenario challenges the promotion and implementation of cultural diversity policies.  However, this plurality is constantly addressed as the ‘panacea’ for future creation and pacific dialogue. The promotion and guarantee of cultural diversity constitutes however, a ‘versatile’ instrument for political, economic, and social agendas as well as a ‘vehicle for decentralization’ that impacts practices of cultural heritage management. 

Two cultural institutions that have the mission to preserve, promote and administer a Spanish national cultural heritage property will be critically examined. This analysis aims to recognize the drawbacks of a sometimes-biased use of cultural heritage to strengthen distinct national consciousness, as well as good practices in the presentation and management of Spanish cultural heritage.


       Rocio de la Cuadra graduated with a BA in Law from the Universidad Complutense Madrid, Spain, in 1999, and went on to work in marketing and communication for La Pana Comunik and Obralia.


Thesis Advisor: Michael Dorf, Adjunct Professor, Arts Administration; Partner, Adducci, Dorf, Lehner, Mitchell & Blankenship, P.C.

Thesis Reader: Nicholas Lowe, Visiting Artist, Arts Administration




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